“Don’t overthink it, boy,” Brandon Flowers bellowed to the crowd at Madrid’s Mad Cool Festival last week, unveiling a brand-new storm-bringer of a song with its title emblazoned across the backdrop: ‘Boy’. It was, The Killers frontman later explained to NME, “the song that took me back home” and “sort of the impetus for writing [2021’s] ‘Pressure Machine’,” but didn’t make it onto that relatively low-key and alt-folk album due to an “aesthetic” decision. Translation: it nobbles the synth line from Erasure’s ‘Respect’ and proceeds to rock balls.
To those of us for whom ‘Pressure Machine’ was an intimate (and surprisingly sweary) refuge from all of the lies, tragedy and Piers Morgan Uncensored over the past year, with its hazy tales of small-town America where the hillbilly heroin flows freely and abusive husbands get violent comeuppance, it was a pretty big deal to get a glimpse of the record’s formative track. Here was evidence that the album came from a more upbeat place than its stories of wage slavery, dead horses and teenagers meeting their ends at the wrong end of the Union Pacific train suggested.
“There’s an optimism to it,” Brandon continued in his explanation to NME. “It’s in the dust, it’s in the gutter, and it’s looking at the stars.” So it transpired: ‘Boy’ concerns a shy, ill-fitting 16-year-old with dreams far bigger than his one-horse hometown – perhaps an autobiographical figure, Brandon? – becoming aware that the world isn’t so bad once you get used to it and it’s best not to sweat the small stuff. And us Killers fans (particularly the post-Boris British ones primed for a cathartic blaze out of the darkest of days) could certainly do with a bit of hope right now. Even if it only lasts until Nadine Dorries gets in.
The Killers have been saving graces of the pandemic. While many other major acts sat on their albums for two years, terrified of losing out on a precious touring cycle, Brandon and co. played charity livestreams and continued to write and record. The band released two albums in the last couple of years – 2020’s extravagant ‘Imploding The Mirage’ and the aforementioned ‘Pressure Machine’, of which NME stated: “There are flashes of ‘Sam’s Town’ monochrome palette and splinters from ‘Sawdust’ thicket, but the songs presented here are less likely to be belted out with strangers at a stadium tour, but to soundtrack an existential stare into the last whisky of the night.”
‘Boy’, on the other hand, is precision-engineered to be belted out with strangers at a stadium tour. As such, The Killers have more reason than most to trumpet the new track ahead of a proposed eighth album for 2023, of which Flowers told NME at Mad Cool: “We just had a few days off and Stuart [Price, producer] came and visited us on the road… We’re sending things back and forth, and ideas. I’m talking with Shawn Everett [producer] too, and it’s nice to have that combo.” He explained that the “full record will probably be early next year”, and that there’ll “definitely” be new singles this year.
And although the band premiered ‘Boy’ with their customary blam and pizzazz, they could arguably have made more of the song’s live premiere with a proper, close-up camera on the performance and audio taken from the sound desk. It might be thrilling to see your favourite band play their new song live, but The Killers could lead a revolution by making special performances such as this part of legitimate global premieres across their socials.
For rock acts, starved of mainstream exposure, there’s a relatively untapped opportunity for a media meteor strike here. The debut live performance of a forthcoming single creates vital first impressions for a band’s fanbase, and unlike most bands who apologetically knock out previously unheard songs at shows like they’re wafting away the after-effects of their vegan catering requirements, The Killers are old masters at delivering new tunes with all the confidence of – and far more actual substance than – Rishi Sunak bullshitting through a campaign video.
Why not, then, give the streamers at home just as hard-hitting a preview as the crowd in the field? Let the lyric video drop when it may. If marking live song premieres as the major event that they are became wider practice (and if bands find it prohibitively expensive to get someone with an iPhone 13 onto a stage, my rates are very competitive), it might even up the excitement and engagement of gigs.
Let’s break the habit of a lifetime and question Brandon Flowers’ advice. Let’s overthink it. If band made big online and IRL statements when they air new songs, we’d be compelled to stick around and listen, for fear of missing out on A Moment, instead of rushing for the bog. After all, ‘Boy’ will be bursting the MSG Sphere come 2026 or so. Let’s give brand news bangers the hi-def welcomes they deserve.